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For some, smoking is not just a guilty pleasure or even a vice that they need to get rid off. It is very much a part of their identity. A cigarette on their lips is very much a style statement for many.  E-cigarettes are not the latest fad in the world of cigarettes, but it is certainly something that many people resort to in their journey to quit smoking. Smoking is a very addictive lifestyle choice that accounts for more than 480,000 deaths every year in the US. These statistics don't lie and slowly smoking is edging towards silently killing our future generations.

What harm is there in an innocent fag one may ask. A cigarette upon burning, produces highly toxic gas like carbon monoxide as well as other harmful chemicals like lead, ammonia, cadmium and even tar. If you thought that this was it, you are sadly mistaken my friend.  There are other chemicals too that are detrimental to health.  To present to you the bare truth, there are 4,000 chemical compounds released every time you light a cigarette. To put it in terms of cancer-causing compounds, a cigarette contains about  40 or more carcinogen compounds as well as 400 other toxic compounds. This is why the quote," A fire at one end, a fool at the other, and a bit of tobacco in between" is very apt for smokers. 

Nicotine-key ingredient responsible for 'feel good effect'

The ingredient that gives the feel-good effect after smoking a cigarette is nicotine. Nicotine is not just found in tobacco. Nicotine alkaloids are also found in several veggies and teas.  However, cooking these veggies helps remove such alkaloids. Nicotine very easily travels to the brain and gives a temporary relief or feeling of relaxation. It can also cause your heart rate to rise as well as improve your mood.

This euphoria is only temporary and once it wears off the body is left craving for more nicotine. This is what sends a smoker reaching for the next cigarette. Cigarettes are the quickest route to escape the stress one faces on a regular basis. Nicotine helps provide temporary relief from tension you face at work or even the problems in your family life.

What's in it for those who quit?

Quitting smoking is tough. This is an undeniable fact. So, here are some eye-opening benefits for those who are willing to brave it and quit smoking. The American Heart Association has come up with these facts after considerable research.

  • 20 minutes after a smoker quits smoking- the blood pressure and heart rate both return to normal.
  • After about 12 hours of abstaining from smoking, the carbon monoxide levels in the blood return to normal.
  • Power through to 1 week and breathing patterns return to normal. Your lungs with thank you for clearer and deeper breathing.
  • Once you reach the second week of abstinence and to about three months the lung and heart function improve drastically. By the first month, people will definitely begin to notice that you smell much better and the stain on your fingernails and teeth will also begin to fade. Your once impeccable sense of smell and taste will return. This would give you a better appreciation for good food. Read more about diet tips for smokers
  • If you have braved it to 1 year, have some cake and celebrate this milestone. This is not just a win for your will power, but the risk of coronary heart disease will be reduced by 50%. 

E-cigarettes - good or evil?

Many people feel they need to go easy on the road to quitting smoking or simply because they feel that they are able to afford e-cigarettes and don’t want to smoke in all the other harmful compounds found in a normal cigarette.  Using e-cigarette is called vaping. Among the youth who use e-cigarettes a new reverse trend is on the rise.  These youngsters resort to conventional smoking after starting out with e-cigarettes. 

Okay, cutting to the chase. Are e-cigarettes any better than conventional cigarettes.

  • In terms of nicotine intake, those who use e-cigarettes have very similar nicotine intake when compared to a conventional cigarette smoker.
  • When it comes to toxicity, there are a few other things that need to considered like the difference in working between the two. A cigarette contains treated tobacco leaves rolled up. Upon burning there are harmful chemicals released. So, in addition to getting the nicotine, a smoker also comes in contact with about 4,000 other harmful chemicals. In the case of vaping, an e-cigarette contains fewer harmful chemicals and it works when a puff is taken and the heating element produces vapors that contain nicotine. The key advantage of vaping over smoking is that the exposure to other numerous carcinogens are reduced.
  • Also, the second-hand exposure to nicotine and other harmful chemicals is lower in the case of vaping using e-cigarettes when compared with conventional cigarettes. 
  • E- cigarettes are not the best option for smokers as it has been known to cause asthmatic symptoms like coughing and wheezing.  The best option is to quit smoking all together.
  • There have been cases where e-cigarettes have exploded due to improper use or improper storage of batteries. 
  • E-liquids found in e-cigarettes are also responsible for seizures, brain injury and vomiting.

How do you put a full stop to smoking?

Stopping cold turkey, nicotine patches or is it yoga? What works best? We have some tips that might help.

  •  Throw away the remaining cigarettes and the ash-trays once you’ve taken a decision to quit smoking.
  • Indulge your senses in new food. Quitting smoking can improve your sense of smell and taste. Therefore food can be a very helpful distraction. However, don't resort to binge-eating or over-eating. That is only giving up one unhealthy habit and embracing a new equally unhealthy one.
  • Keep yourself busy- say no to idle time. Indulge in a hobby, get a pet, go for walks.
  • Music is also amazing to help keep your mind off of cigarettes.
  • Chew gum, eat a healthy snack and keep your mouth busy
  • Squeeze a stress ball or play with silly putty or even using a fidget spinner is perfect to keep your fingers from grabbing a cigarette.
  • Smokers have a tendency to smoke after a meal or at work breaks or even when going to the loo at home. Identify these high risk areas and deliberately choose distractions to keep yourself from grabbing a smoke.
  • Stay away from smoking areas. This might mean you break a few friendships, but try explaining it to them why quitting smoking is important for you.
  • Deliberately avoid places that could tempt you to go in for a smoke.
  • Treat yourself with the money you saved, that you would’ve normally spent on cigarettes.
  • Do some volunteer work. This will give you a sense of purpose and will help kill even the little idle time you have.

 How can friends and family help?

  •  Help the ex-smoker out by doing stuff together. It could be activities that you both would enjoy, like a board game or a movie.
  • Prepare nutritious food and snacks. People who quit smoking like to munch on a snack every now and then. Something to keep their mouth and hands busy, if you will.
  • Reassure the ex-smoker that they are doing well even if they loose their temper or feel frustrated.
  • If an ex-smoker wants to rant, be supportive and lend an ear.
  • Never underestimate or put down an ex-smoker’s efforts of staying nicotine-free. No two journeys are the same.  Each one has their own challenges. 
  • If you smoke, try not to smoke in front of an ex-smoker. Hide your cigarettes and ash trays to not give them any temptation.

 Research findings

  • Research conducted at UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center reveal that adolescents who were previous non-smokers who resorted to using e-cigarettes or other forms or smokeless tobacco were more likely to end up smoking conventional cigarettes. In other words, what started as a genuine case of curiosity can lead to a life long habit of smoking. Research suggests that about 90 percent of adult smokers smoked their very first cigarette around the age of 18.
  • Another research reveals that around 3 out of 5 people who tried a cigarette ended up being daily smokers. This reveals that even a single experience can cause lifelong smoking habits. The conversion rate from 'first time smoker' to a 'daily smoker' is surprisingly high.  This reaffirms the idea that children and teens must be deterred from even experimenting with cigarettes. This research was conducted by Queen Mary University of London. In the UK, only about 19 per cent of 11-15 year olds have ever tried a cigarette. This is a small number and with stringent measures, these numbers can be brought down further.
  • E-cigarettes, nicotine patches or even gum can all help to quit smoking. However, how effective they are is still under debate. While no nicotine is the best option, a person who wants to quit smoking may have to take up various intermediate stops on the way to saying good bye to tobacco completely. This is where e-cigarettes, patches etc have their significance. In the present scenario, anyone can purchase an e-cigarette and can try it. This could be a trigger for youngsters to develop a lifelong smoking habit. So, how to put a curb on this? Measures must be taken by the government to restrict sale of e-cigarettes only to people who smoke cigarettes. Another measure that would be helpful would be to restrict the sale of e-cigarettes to pharmacies. 
  • It is an undeniable fact that switching from smoking regular cigarettes to vaping would be one step in the right direction. It is a harm-minimizing way of smoking. The undeniably best option is to not start any such smoking habits at all. This because nicotine in any form is still harmful and addictive. E-cigarettes and patches are expensive options when considering stopping smoking. Judicial and discretionary use of e-cigarettes can successfully rid us of the pandemic of cigarettes.

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